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How to pack your bike for the flight

Packing up your bike for the flight.

Packaging up your pride and joy ready to place it at the mercy of the airport baggage handlers can be a worrying thought. But with a little careful preparation you can safeguard yourself against most foreseeable damage that can occur in transit.

Firstly, there is no need to invest in an expensive bike bag. A bike box from your local bike shop is just as effective and much less costly, depending on your local bike shop, they may even have a box that they will give you for free! From there a couple of other packaging items will see you safely to the other end of your journey, firstly some bubble wrap and second some spare foam pipe lagging.

So here goes, these are the things you need to do.....

  • Remove the bike wheels and the QR skewers from the hubs, you can stow the QR's in the spokes for transport.
  • If your bike has disc brakes, I recommend removing the disc rotors from the wheels to avoid them getting bent in transit.
  • Again, for disc brakes, fit a spacer between the pads in each caliper to stop them being accidentally activated. You can get specific plastic spacers, but a folded piece of card is just as good, or even the sticks from an ice lolly! Just make sure that they are a snug fit to stop them falling out in transit.
  • Remove the pedals
  • Disconnect the rear mech from the bike frame. Wrap it in bubble wrap and fix it to the INSIDE of the rear stays with cable ties
  • If your frame has a breakaway rear mech hanger you might want to consider taking it off for transit. But take care with the screws as often these are designed to break off at low torque.
  • Now we turn our attention to the front of the bike. I suggest removing the handlebars from the stem rather than taking the whole stem off.
  • Wrap the bars in bubble wrap and fix them to the bike frame with cable ties.
  • Loosen the stem bolts to allow you to turn the forks through 90 degrees whilst keeping the stem facing "forward"
  • This is where the pipe lagging comes in. I recommend putting a section of lagging around the stanchions of the forks to prevent scratches and dents on this delicate and important area. Hold the lagging in place with a little gaffer tape or more cable ties. More recently, I've seen people using their knee or elbow protectors to cover the stanchions. A good idea and saves on buying pipe lagging.
  • If a dual suspension bike with an air shock it's also worth putting a small section of lagging around the shaft of the shock too.
  • Finally, you need to protect the drop-outs from being crushed in transit. Some bike shops may have spare plastic axle spacers that are normally fitted between the drop-outs when they receive new bikes. These are ideal and are again probably free from your LBS. Alternatively you can pick up and old wheel hub and fix it in place with an old QR to protect the frame.
  • The forks are less likely to suffer this type of damage due to the position we have put them in, but if you have a spare spacer or hub, there is no harm in using them as a belt and braces approach.
  • If you value your paint job, then use bubble wrap / lagging / rags to protect your frame in the appropriate places
  • Finally placing all of this into your bike bag or box carefully to avoid things rubbing against each other.

There are a number of YouTube videos available to help you along the way, some more advanced than others, but this is a link to a playlist of useful videos on the subject.

http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=BA7F200D322FF4DC&search_query=packing+mountain+bike

When asking for bike boxes and things from your local bike shop, cakes or biscuits often go along way towards easing the transaction along ! One final thing, contrary to popular belief there is no need to let the air out of your tyres or suspension parts before flying, if a aerosol can of deodorant can stand the low air pressure, your tyres and suspension sure can!

We hope that helps to get you away with the minimum of fuss and risk, if you think we have missed something, or you have a particular tip you would like to share with your fellow travelers then please feel free to drop us a line.